Here are a few excerpts transcribed from a drum clinic held at A Drummer’s Tradition in San Rafael, CA. Mike Clark, Michael Barsimanto, and organist Wil Blades performed some original music and jazz standards, and spoke about their careers in music, sharing stories and taking questions from the audience. Check out all the videos on YouTube!
: Changing Times – New Music :
Mike Clark: It was the early seventies, maybe 1970. My friend took me to hear Michael [Barsimanto] when he was about twenty years old. He was so great. I loved him. We all started following each other and going to each other’s gigs, and we were all deep into Tony Williams and Elvin Jones at that time. Things had changed from Max (Roach) and Philly Jo [Jones], to Tony [Williams] and Elvin [Jones] and Jack DeJohnette. Things were moving, the music was changing. Things started really happening. Funk, rock, and jazz started to blend all into one thing. A lot of it happened in Oakland and San Francisco, right around this area. It was a Bay Area thing. Michael [Barsimanto] and I are both guys who pushed the envelope in our own personal playing in this new genre, which was a not a genre yet. We were making it up, along with a whole lot of other people. I didn’t just make it up, it was going that way.
Michael Barsimanto: I was in Marin County at the time. I came up here from LA in 69′. I had been playing drums since I was about eight years old. I heard in high school that there was a drum teacher here in town, very renown in the Bay Area, named Chuck Brown. I was one of his students, and [David] Garibaldi was as well. Chuck had his own way, a certain technique. Some of the things that Garibaldi and Mike [Clark] were doing up to that time… I didn’t have my radar on those guys as much. But the whole Bay Area – it was a really nice blend. A little bit more of an attitude; the spirit of the Bay Area.
Mike Clark: All my stuff comes from the roots. Even though my jazz drumming is modern, I come from Philly Jo [Jones]. My funk is the same way. But at this point I was getting a little bored. In those days we were trying to break away. I played a lot with Albert King, Albert Collins, Freddie King… So I decided to change things. I can take a double stroke roll and put it on every part of the instrument – it’s not that hard. And a paradiddle. And this thing that everybody played, that Elvin played – I played it slow instead of playing it real fast. That’s what I was trying, I had “Elvin Triplets.” That’s kind of where we were headed – we were sort of “binary drummers” in this particular style that didn’t do exactly what Tony or Jack or Elvin, or Clyde [Stubblefield] or Jabo [Starks] did. It sort of went into this other thing. It was a glorious time, because it was a time when we were all in the laboratory. It was like science study class, expect it was down. If that makes any sense…
Michael Barsimanto: Also, at the time, the drummers really started pushing the envelope volume-wise and vocabulary-wise, and the drummers started to be… I don’t want to say “busier,” but drummers started playing more outside the roll of just traditional time keeping. You got a lot from Tony Williams who broke that code, and Roy Haynes. Freer phrasing, interesting keeping time – what they call “comping”. Playing grander statements within the “rhythm section roll” playing. Tony really broke that code for us. What Mike [Clark] did when he played with Herbie was to take that kind of suspended time feel, and the jazz ride time feel, and… Well, part of what you’re doing is comping, but then playing back beat figures in there, so then that’s where that vocabulary became very crisp.
: Musical Beginnings :
Mike Clark: I was fortunate because I played as a child, professionally. My father was a drummer, and I played with adults that were thirty, forty, or fifty when I was only seven, eight, or nine. So they were like, “don’t change cymbals in the middle of a guy’s solo… Don’t do this. Don’t do that…” And also, Paul Jackson of the Headhunters was my roommate for about 12 to 15 years, which I’m having trouble remembering… But what I do remember is that we played constantly. That’s how I developed. I developed in a time where we worked five nights a week. We worked five nights in a week in those days, seven days a week. We used to cut work, find reasons to not go to work, to leave from working. Really, there were no days off. Now it’s like, if you work two nights a week, you’re really playing your butt off. [After leaving Herbie Hancock] I came home here to San Francisco and I played five nights a week for a year and half with Eddie Henderson. Dig that, first and foremost – a jazz gig. Pharaoh Sanders was on the gig, Joe Henderson, all these great jazz musicians. And that’s where I really learned to play the music I’ve been trying to play since I was a child. It was on that gig. Because everyone was talking to me, you know? These cats were schooling me. It was righteous.
Michael Barsimanto: I got some advice from Dave Liebman, early on. I was taking a drum solo. I was playing him with and Michael Forman, and some other guys. I’m taking this solo on a tune, and when I’m done soloing I look over and he’s waiting at the wall. I look over and he’s – [gesturing in circles with hand] And I’m young and say “Well, I played already…” It’s hard to remember exactly what was going on, but I just played and played and played and kept soloing. And I looked over and he does it again! And now, I’m just a puddle. And I asked him after the gig, I said, “what was that all about?” And he said that’s something Miles had told him. He said, “you really start to play when you’re out of all your ideas. When you’re tired. Then you start to play. Then you really start to find it.” I thought that was really good advice. So do that in your practice. Really exhaust a situation until you stumble on one little kernel.
Full YouTube playlist for the clinic: Mike Clark & Michael Barsimanto Clinic: 6/23/17